- Tons of things in your everyday life can run the risk of making you sick.
- The five-second rule isn’t so harmless.
- Drinking fountains can also cause you to get sick.
Staying healthy is a full-time job. Eating right, keeping active, and avoiding unnecessary risk is all part of making sure your body is fit enough to take on whatever life throws at it. Though some not-so-great habits and environmental factors are obviously bad for your health, other health risks might not be so obvious.
INSIDER consulted with medical experts to uncover a few seemingly harmless things that can actually get you sick.
Washing raw meat actually increases your chances of getting food poisoning
It might seem counterintuitive, but washing raw meat to remove contaminants and bacteria actually elevates your chances of becoming infected by a food-borne pathogen.
“Never wash raw meat before cooking! Water has a tendency to splash, which can give germs a free ride to your sink, counter, and nearby utensils and food,” certified food safety expert Katie Heil told INSIDER.
Instead of scrubbing down raw meat, keep it isolated from all other meal ingredients until it’s thoroughly cooked. Be sure to wash your hands after handling raw meat and use separate utensils for the meat and the rest of the dish.
Spending face time with your dog could expose you to diseases if you don’t practice good hygiene
Illnesses that transfer from animals to humans are known as zoonotic diseases. Unfortunately, dogs can potentially spread a few to their owners.
Veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter told INSIDER that parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and scabies can transfer from dogs to humans. People can also be exposed to Leptospirosis and salmonella bacterial infections from dog faeces or urine.
Actually catching a disease from a dog is uncommon.
“Transmission of diseases from dogs to people is rare. There are concerns with people who are immune-suppressed (on chemotherapy, have HIV, etc) but for most healthy people, reasonable amount hygiene will keep them safe,” Dr. Richter said.
And no, you can’t catch a cold from your dog.
If you often follow the ‘5-second rule,’ it can be risky
“The five-second rule” is the idea of when you drop an item on the ground, it won’t be contaminated by germs if you pick it up within five seconds. Unfortunately, this isn’t the whole story.
“You may be fine since the majority of germs are harmless, but by eating something off the floor or countertop, you’re taking a calculated risk. It is possible a cold or flu virus is on the surface,” infectious disease and critical care expert Dr. Thomas S. Ahrens told INSIDER.
One study from Rutgers University found that the longer an item is on the ground, the more bacteria transfer to the item. Though this means that it may technically be safer to eat a fallen potato chip that was immediately picked up rather than one left on the floor for a few minutes, you’re still better off avoiding placing anything in your mouth that has had contact with the ground.
Taking too many vitamins or supplements can cause health problems
Getting essential vitamins and minerals through food is a good way to keep your body healthy. But when it comes to vitamin supplements, it is possible to inadvertently take more than your body is equipped to handle.
“Many people do not realise that taking certain vitamins, even good products, in the wrong doses can have negative effects. The fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K are especially likely to cause toxicity if taken in excess,” internal medicine physician Dr. Arielle Levitan told INSIDER.
According to The Mayo Clinic, taking too much vitamin D can lead to vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, bone pain, and kidney problems. Consuming more than the recommended daily dose of vitamin C (65 to 90 mg a day with an upper limit of 2,000 mg a day) can lead to vomiting, heartburn, headaches, and insomnia. Regularly getting too much vitamin A may have the potential to cause bone problems.
Washing with antibacterial soap can actually lead to a weaker immune system
Washing with antibacterial soap is a good idea if you’re in a germy environment or if you have a compromised immune system. But for most of us, regularly using antibacterial soap may do more harm than good.
“Our skin hosts more than 500 different types of good bacteria. This bacterial system provides vital protection for the body and contributes to our immune defences. Regularly using antibacterial products can reduce this vital immune safety net, leaving us more prone to colds, flu, and other illnesses,” Dr. Holly Phillips, internal medicine physician and medical expert for RetailMeNot Rx Saver, told INSIDER.
In 2016, the FDA banned 19 antibacterial ingredients in hand and body washes, including triclosan and triclocarban. Their investigations found that regular use of these products might product health hazards such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects. Sticking to regular soap and water is a good way to combat the spread of germs.
Drinking out of public drinking fountains can harbour cold and flu viruses
Public water fountains can harbour contagious bacteria or viruses. The problem usually isn’t with the quality of the water itself, but the possibility of contamination by previous users.
“If you drink out of a water fountain, there might be some airborne bacteria or viruses present, especially if someone before you was already infectious with a cold or virus and didn’t know it,” said Dr. Ahrens.
To avoid catching something unpleasant from a drinking fountain, be sure to never place your lips against the spout but sip from the stream of water as it flows out. You can also use a disinfectant wipe on the spout, or skip the fountain entirely and carry your own reusable water bottle.
Touching your face can spread viruses
Dr. Ahrens warned that touching your face can transfer germs to your mouth and nose.
“The main way viruses enter our bodies is via the nose and mouth. If you touch one of the many germ hotbeds we encounter every day and then rub your nose, bite your nails, or rub your eyes, you’re giving illnesses an open door to enter your system,” said Dr. Phillips.
Keyboards, doorknobs, escalator buttons, mobile phones, and cash are all items that can be breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Touching the face can also worsen acne for people who are prone to it.
Thawing food at room temperature gives bacteria time to breed
You might think nothing of tossing a package of frozen meat or vegetables on the kitchen counter to thaw. But allowing perishable foods to thaw at room temperature increases the likelihood of bacterial growth.
“Room temperature is within the temperature danger zone or 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Pathogens can grow and multiply extremely quickly in that temperature range, and when food is left out at room temperature it can become unsafe to eat, even after cooking,” said Heil.
According to the USDA, perishable food should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours, regardless of whether it is frozen or not. The best ways to thaw food are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Even minor cuts and scrapes can potentially get infected
It’s not just gaping wounds that need to be protected from germs. Something as minor as a skinned knee or a cat scratch has the potential to become infected by germs that are already on your body.
“You routinely have germs on your skin, but if you break the skin, there’s now an entry point for the germs that normally are kept outside. If you have a cut or any break in the skin, clean and cover it with a bandage,” said Dr. Ahrens.
An exposed cut or scrape of any size means that germs have an unprotected pathway into your body. Disinfect and cover any cuts and only touch the wounded area with clean hands. If you notice signs of infection such as itching, burning, swelling, or redness, get the cut checked out by a healthcare provider.
Ignoring oral health may actually increase your risk of illness in the rest of the body
Brushing your teeth and flossing are useful for more than just preventing tooth decay and bad breath. Research has also linked gum disease with the development of type-2 diabetes and certain heart problems.
“Gum disease is linked to several different diseases. There is a clear link between periodontitis and diabetes, and it seems they’re so intrinsically linked that it’s unclear which one causes the other,” dentist Dr. Mark Burhenne told INSIDER.
According to the National Health Service, developing gum disease can also increase your risk of stroke and heart disease.
“If you’re at high risk for heart disease, getting your teeth cleaned, pulled, or even brushed vigorously can increase your risk for developing endocarditis. This happens when bacteria from plaque gets into the bloodstream, leading to bacteremia,” said Dr. Burhenne.
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart. It is a serious condition and can be life-threatening. Bacteremia is more likely to lead to endocarditis in people with already weakened immune systems or pre-existing heart conditions.
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